The UK is the next country to think about legislation to decrease cigarette smoking rates, and in doing so, has made the statement that vaping is safe. What measures does the UK want to use? And what are its thoughts on vaping in general? Read on to find out.
The UK made the statement that vaping is safe with a new review that fingers vaping as a great method for smoking cessation, and one that should be promoted for this purpose. To stay current on everything important happening in the industry, subscribe to The Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter. Also, it’ll get you premium access to deals on cannabis flowers, vapes, edibles, and much more! We’ve also got standout offers on cannabinoids, like HHC-O, Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP & HHC, which won’t kill your bank account. Head over to our “Best-of” lists to get these deals, and remember to enjoy responsibly!
The UK on cigarettes
First and foremost, exactly what the UK plans to do is not yet known. Since 2019, the governance of the country has spoken about plans to decrease cigarette use, but the meat of this particular story comes from a review that was published on June 9th. No formal legislation exists on the matter, and all speculation is related to the recent review. This makes sense as the review was established to aid the government in getting to its smoke-free goal in 2030.
The independent review was commissioned by health secretary, Sajid Javid, and published for the UK public. This report came with 15 recommendations for how the UK should deal with its increasing issue of death and disability due to smoking, if the country has any chance of meeting its desired deadline. Javid commissioned the review to find more avenues by which the government can offer smoking cessation options, and help the population live overall healthier lives. The review was led by Dr Javed Khan OBE, a former CEO of the charity Barnardo’s.
The main recommendations are as follows, as per the UK government:
- “Increased investment of an additional £125 million per year in smokefree 2030 policies, with an extra £70 million per year ringfenced for stop smoking services.
- Raising the age of sale from 18 by 1 year every year, until eventually no one can buy a tobacco product in this country.
- Promotion of vapes as an effective ‘swap to stop’ tool to help people quit smoking.
- Improving prevention in the NHS so smokers are offered advice and support to quit at every interaction they have with health services.
- A tobacco license for retailers to limit the availability of tobacco across the country.
- A rethink of the way cigarette sticks and packets look to reduce their appeal.
- A mass media campaign to encourage smokers to quit.”
One of the main recommendations is about increasing the legal age to smoke over time. The age increases would go into effect once a year, starting from 18 to 19. The end goal is not simply to reduce smoking, but to eradicate it all together, which technically means a smoking rate of 5% or below. That gives eight years to drop the smoking rate to 5%- from 12% of the population now.
Smoking damage in the UK
In the US, smoking kills about 480,000 people a year, with 41,000 of those deaths attributable to secondhand smoke. Illnesses of smokers generally range from heart disease, to respiratory illness, to cancer. These same illnesses are found in secondhand smokers as well. But that’s the US. How does smoking affect the UK?
Approximately 78,000 people a year die from smoking in the UK. Approximately 1 in 7 people are active smokers. From 2019-2020, there were 506,100 hospital admissions from smoking, which was the same as a year before, but 10% increased from 10 years before that. In 2019 there were 74,600 deaths from smoking, which was a 3% decrease from one year before, and a 9% decrease from 10 years before that. From 2019-2020, there were 710,000 smoking cessation products sold, which was a 4% decrease from the year before, and a 71% decrease from 10 years before that.
According to the Global Burden Study of Disease report for 2019, as per the site Action on Smoking and Health, smoking is the highest risk factor for death in the UK, and helped cause the deaths of 119,776. Comparatively, being overweight contributed to 56,215 deaths, alcohol contributed to 25,242 deaths, sedentary lifestyles contributed to 14,335 deaths, and drug use contributed to 5,015 deaths.
Smoking related deaths are seen mainly in the forms of lung cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and coronary heart disease. 52% of all cancer deaths were from cigarettes, and that’s about 35,500. 35% of respiratory deaths were from smoking, and that’s approximately 23,700. And 13% of deaths from circulatory disease were from smoking, equaling about 14,700 deaths. 15% of deaths in 2019 for adults 35+ are thought to be from smoking.
England does show a general downward trajectory in smoking numbers when looking at the trend of many decades. In the mid-70’s, 25% of UK men and 13% of UK women, smoked 20 cigarettes or more a day (the definition of heavy smoking), compared with 5% of men and 3% of women in 2012. The 70’s saw the highest smoking rates, with as many as 21.6 cigarettes smoked on average daily for men, and 16.6 for women. In 1949, that average was 14.1 for men and 6.8 for women. In 2019 the numbers were 9.2 and 9 respectively.
The UK statement that vaping is safe
The UK recommendations bring up another topic which quite unfortunately is rather contentious, though it shouldn’t be. The subject of vaping is wrought with misinformation, and that misinformation generally comes from government bodies. The review jumps right into this, clarifying for the UK its stance on vaping in general, and the safe nature of it compared to smoking.
If you’ll remember from above, one of the recommendations of the review, is to promote vapes, and to give free vapes as a swap for cigarettes. This already says quite a bit about the thought on the safety of vapes (despite smear campaigns). The review goes even further with a couple more recommendations related to vaping as a tool to stop smoking:
- “Provide accurate information to healthcare professionals about the benefits of vaping.
- Implement measures that prevent young people from taking up vaping.”
These two points are important. The first one backs up that vaping doesn’t deserve the negative attention it receives, and that medical professionals are often taught incorrectly about it (and need to be taught better). And second, that even vaping is less desirable than not smoking or vaping at all. This is fair, as no one said vaping is 100% safe, and it is possible that future problems may be associated with it. Plus, in order to get rid of nicotine addictions, the addiction that perpetuates the smoking cycle, this means not having vapes either. How much this last point matters when there are safe ways to do it, is debatable.
The UK made the statement that vaping is safe; or at least, significantly safer than smoking, and without the related death toll. And it did this at a very interesting time. Tons of stories flood the internet crying about vaping dangers, yet none are about vaping. Instead, all are related to other factors, like additives for flavor, stabilization, thinning, thickening, etc. The UK review marks the first turning of this informational tide on a grand scale. And it means something for a country like the UK to finally drop the shenanigans, and give a real answer.
How does this differ from the US?
The US also recently made waves with prospective plans to change the way we smoke, although those prospective plans are very different. The UK is talking about a similar policy to New Zealand, which also announced possible plans to attempt to eradicate smoking by slowly increasing the age at which cigarettes can be bought. The biggest argument of opposition to this model (and one that makes sense), is that this will promote a bigger black market. On the other hand, it doesn’t yank the cigarette out of a smoker’s hand immediately, or force them to use a product they don’t like.
What the US wants to do (which is just speculation at the moment) is to decrease the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. The reason given is that this will help people decrease their nicotine intake, and therefore, smoke less. Unfortunately, this isn’t backed up in life or research. Though a 2015 study (and others) points to reduced nicotine cigarettes leading to reduced nicotine in blood, the amount of reduction is important.
Most studies show that nicotine in blood or urine ends up below the starting point, but above the decrease it should be to match the decrease of nicotine in cigarettes. And this means the smokers are actually smoking more. Many studies also don’t take into consideration whether people are trying to quit or not, and whether they are aware when they’re smoking weaker cigarettes, which can affect motivation to smoke more or less. Some of these studies are rather questionable in how unclear they are on these factors, while only advertising the generally inefficient nicotine drop. Truth is, we’ve known this for a long time, especially considering how people puff more on light cigarettes.
Implementing legislation of this nature could increase the amount of cigarettes smoked, thereby increasing the amount of cigarette damage. Smoking damage is about smoke inhalation, not nicotine levels, so anything that encourages smokers to light up more, will only increase the overall problem. Should the US institute such a head-shaker of a measure, it should expect cigarette sales to rise, and smoking deaths to increase.
If you’re thinking this doesn’t make sense, you’re right, it doesn’t. In fact, it only makes sense when considering the billions that the US makes off cigarette taxes. You know how cigarette prices have skyrocketed? Well, that extra money doesn’t go to producers, it’s taxes, and goes straight to governments. This backwards measure that might increase smoking (while putting on the facade of being concerned about user health), could make health issues worse, while putting more money in government coffers.
Sound dark? Remember big pharma companies like Johnson & Johnson are paying out well over $20 billion for their opioid crimes, yet these drugs are still perfectly legal, and sanctioned by the US government. The same government which repeatedly tells us that vaping is dangerous and should never be done.
Whether the UK takes up these measures or not, we don’t yet know. But it sure means something for a country like the UK to admit that vaping is safe, and a good alternative to smoking. Hopefully this will encourage more governments to give up the ghost, and follow suit.
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